Dipti Desai

Story: Home that was
Instructor: Adriana Zehbrauskas

“Sulukule, a Roma migrant settlement of Istanbul, is being mowed down in the name of development, forcing thousands into displacement. For a few thousand Roma people, who have lived there since the turn of 2nd millennium, and seem to have thrived after the Ottoman conquest in 1453, this means a lot more than loss of homes. Roma migrants are gypsies, who earn their living through tasks such as performing street-music, flower selling, fortune telling etc., all of which will cease to be reliable sources of income if they move to the tiny apartments far away from the city-centre that government is willing to offer them in exchange of their tradition habitat at Sulukule. Relocation to these new apartments which are located 40 kms outside the city limits will therefore will almost certainly rob them of their livelihoods, families, social structure and trdition that was handed down for generations.

Despite all claims made by the Municipality and TOKI, the Sulukule Urban Transformation Project seems to progress the process of demolition and renovation without any participation or involvement of local people; often they are not even informed about any housing programme. This is an apparent violation of several rights and freedoms of these people; it disrespects their domestic privacy and seriously compromises their right to private property, right to an adequate standard of living, right to equality of opportunity, and freedom from discrimination.

This photo essay, shot at Sulukule and other Roma settlements in Istanbul during June 2010, is an attempt to depict their lives in a state of uncertainty while they anticipate displacement from their traditional habitat, cultural identity and economic subsistence. By the time this images are seen, it is highly likely that the homes and people in these images will not be seen in Istanbul, again”.


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